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10.16.07 / inko9nito

Quark vs Scottish Arts Council

It is not a question of whether copyright should stay, but how it should be regulated. When we think copyright violations we usually think messy lawsuits, but surprisingly enough, this was not the case with Quark and the Scottish Arts Council logo dispute.

Scottish Arts Council came up with a very simple logo that looked like a lower-case “a” – a symbol made up of a large circle, merged with a small square and a smaller circle punched out of it. Very simple and clever.

In 2005 Quark decided to give their old not-so-friendly logo a face-lift. The idea of their logo was to use the first letter of the company name – upper-case Q. The Q was constructed using a large circle, with a small circle punched out of it, and merged with a small square to make up the little “tail” of the Q.

Sounds familiar? Too familiar, perhaps, the only exception is that the Scottish logo was blue and Quark’s was green. Quark, of course, changed their logo as soon as they found out about the Scottish logo, but not after a lawsuit. According to Wikipedia, the Scottish Arts Council didn’t sue Quark (they probably didn’t even know that they had a clone) but as soon as the Quark logo was developed, the blogosphere suddenly filled with a multitude of blog posts about the suspicious “similarity” between the two logos. Quark saw that and quickly redesigned their logo to something a little more original (and what looked more like a Q).

If there was no concept of copyright, maybe Quark wouldn’t have changed the logo at all. If there was no law that said they couldn’t use the same shape as another company as their identity, maybe they would have kept it because they wouldn’t be punished for it.

Quark probably didn’t steal the logo idea because combining two simple shapes like circle and square isn’t really that hard, and therefore trademarking that idea would be ridiculous, but the blogosphere “case” of Quark v. Scottish Arts Council had a great effect on other designers.

When Fedora came up with a new logo for their product, they didn’t just post the end-product, but it seems like they felt they had to justify how they got there. Though the Fedora logo wasn’t terribly similar to the Scottish one, they were still very cautious about using it.

A thread started by “Dache” on Typophile, asking for critique of his new logo brought up similar concerns by the forum posters. Again, though the logo wasn’t an exact replica of that of the Scottish Arts Council, people were suggesting that he doesn’t use it.

Although none of these cases generated legal lawsuits and were “policed” solely by the “smart mobs,” the Quark case really limited some designers’ ideas since they were concerned about using the simple sideways tear-drop shape in their designs.

Copyright is good when it is in the hands of people who understand the given industry and the situation at hand. In case of Quark – the logo was outrageously close to the Scottish one, but some of the other cases like that of Fedora’s shouldn’t cause any copyright-related legal problems.

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